Frye writes, “I always felt that the shadow behind the cliff is an important element”.So, there is one week of opportunity to capture the sun just hitting the water – not much of a window.
In order for the orange/red glow to happen, several things need to align.
First, there needs to be enough water in the fall, which is fed by snow-melt on top of El Capitan.
Second, if it is stormy, with clouds surrounding the cliffs, or if there are clouds to the west that block the sun at its lowest point before setting (as was my case in 2011), no go.
February is typically a stormy month, so getting the ideal conditions for this event could take years.
Fortunately, my good friend and fellow photographer, Michael Frye, has devoted considerable time to figuring out the ideal days for photographing Horsetail Falls. He has deciphered that the best window for optimal light is February 16 – 23.
Photographing before this can still capture glowing light, but the sun hits to the left of the fall at sunset, as in my picture below, taken February 3rd.
Horsetail Fall, February 3, 2013, pm, taken from “Rowell’s View” at El Capitan picnic area. Notice most of the light is still to the left of the fall, but enough (but not a lot) water is in the fall to see it glowing, particularly on the bottom part, just before is descends behind the dark ridge in front of it., the sun then hits the wall to the right of the fall – again, the fall is lost in the darkness of the cliff.
Note the fall on the right edge of the light, beginning just below the last prominent tree on right-top of the cliff. Having the left-side cliff in shadow really makes the waterfall ‘pop’ with color – like putting a dark sheet behind a light subject in a portrait photograph.
Back in 1989, for Christmas, my aunt gave me a copy of Galen Rowell’s “The Yosemite”.
Actually – I saw the book in a local bookstore and asked her if she could get it for me for Christmas.
My guess is that there was a sigh of relief from my aunt – knowing that year’s present was going to be easier than trying to figure out the latest fashion in clothing she’d try to get for me.